Top 10 Video Games From 2012

For the first time in years, I did a decent job keeping up with the latest video game releases. There were still many that I missed, but this is the first time I have been able to put together a top 10 list during January. This was a great year for video games, especially when it came to narrative-driven experiences.

Honorable Mentions:
Journey
Dyad
FIFA 13
Call of Duty: Black Ops II

Mass Effect 3
10) Mass Effect 3
This is The Dark Knight Rises of the Mass Effect trilogy, especially in terms of divisiveness. I loved it despite mixed feelings about the ending.

Trials Evolution [XBLA]
9) Trials Evolution
Pretty much the perfect sequel. Expands upon the original in every way possible.

Sleeping Dogs [Xbox 360]
8) Sleeping Dogs
A strong contender for my new favorite GTA-style game. Gotta love the Hong Kong setting, too.

Mark of the Ninja [Xbox 360, 2012]
7) Mark of the Ninja
This could very well be the best stealth game I have ever played. Finishing a level without being seen always feels like a huge triumph.

Max Payne 3
6) Max Payne 3
If ever there were a game that feels like an action movie, this is it. Hell, it’s better than most of Hollywood’s recent action flicks.

Hotline Miami [PC]
5) Hotline Miami
The violence is hard to stomach, but the gameplay is so addictive that I kept coming back for more. Best soundtrack of the year as well.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown
4) XCOM: Enemy Unknown
I’m usually not a big fan of strategy games, but XCOM locked me in and didn’t let go. Easy to learn, difficult to master, but always fun.

Spec Ops: The Line [Xbox 360]
3) Spec Ops: The Line
On the surface, this appears to be nothing more than a standard third-person military shooter. But then the story kicks in, and it’s impossible to get out of this descent into madness. Arguably the best narrative ever found in a shooter.

Borderlands 2 [Xbox 360]
2) Borderlands 2
The original Borderlands was one of the breakout hits of 2009, and the sequel delivers everything that worked so well in an even more refined experience. I can’t stop looting.

The Walking Dead: The Game [Xbox 360, 2012]
1) The Walking Dead
The most emotional experience I have ever come across in a video game. An unheralded art of storytelling in a medium that so badly needs strong narratives.

What I Missed: Far Cry 3, Lone Survivor, Torchlight II, Diablo III, Hitman: Absolution

What did I miss? Do you agree with these choices? If you have your own top 10, feel free to share in the comments!

Top 5 Video Games of 2012 — So Far

Yesterday I took at a look at the best movies to come out so far this year. Today, it’s video games. Now, there are a handful that I still need to play (Fez, Sleeping Dogs, The Witcher 2) but I am doing a better job this year at keeping up with the latest titles. Here are my top five video games so far for home consoles:

Journey [PS3]

5) Journey

More of an experience than a game, but it is one I will not soon forget.

The Walking Dead, Episode 1: A New Day [PS3]

4) The Walking Dead

This episodic series just keeps getting better and better. Blows away the TV show.

Trials Evolution [XBLA]

3) Trials Evolution

The perfect example of what a sequel should be: it improves upon the original in every way.

2) Max Payne 3

This Rockstar effort is better than most modern action flicks, with an unparalleled visual presentation, to boot.

Mass Effect 3

1) Mass Effect 3

This is the Dark Knight Rises of the Mass Effect trilogy. Not the best of the series, but still pretty damn good, and a satisfying conclusion to one of gaming’s best trilogies.

Thoughts? Am I missing anything that is an absolute must play so far?

Video Game Review: Trials Evolution [XBLA]

Trials Evolution [XBLA]

Trials Evolution
System: Xbox Live Arcade
Genre: Platform, Racing
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: RedLynx
Release Date: April 18, 2012

Now THIS is how you make a sequel.

Trials Evolution takes everything that made its predecessor, Trials HD, so great but increases it tenfold. The same physics-based motorcycle platforming gameplay returns, but now it is sharper than ever with more refined controls and a larger variety in environments.

While Trials HD put you squarely in abandoned warehouses with little differences visually, Evolution gives you the great outdoors. The vast majority of the game’s levels take place outside, showing bright blue skies, vivid scenery and huge dirt hills (among other obstacles). The tracks are also much more spacious than before, as no longer do you feel contained to a single, tiny line. It’s quite the contrast from before, and the new environments really help give the game a brand new look. There are even levels where the camera rotates as you approach a twist in the track, something once unheard of. This doesn’t feel like a rehashed Trials HD; this feels like a brand new game.

Trials Evolution [XBLA]

A different campaign progression system is in place. This time around, tracks are unlocked after earning a certain amount of medals. Gold medals are worth three points, silver two, and bronze one. It takes 135 points to unlock the notoriously brutal ‘Extreme’ tracks, so perfecting some of the easier levels is a must. Technically, unlocking ‘Extreme’ is considered beating the game, but any Trials veteran knows this is hardly the case. This is a game that is infinitely replayable since there is always the ability to improve upon your race times, and also to attempt to beat your friends (or those on the leaderboard).

Brand new to Trials Evolution is the addition of a multiplayer mode. This adds even more replay value, as now you can race against others online, either visibly on the same track or against their “ghost” forms. Matchmaking is still a little rough at spots, but it is a blast when you get a good group of people playing. Just a heads up, though: there are A LOT of great players online, enough to potentially make you feel bad about your skills (even if you are really good as well).

Trials Evolution [XBLA]

Another killer improvement is the revamped user creation system. The level editor is loaded with features, and the sky is pretty much the limit when it comes to what you can do. Perhaps most welcome is the addition of a more useful sharing system. Now you don’t have to send created tracks from peer-to-peer — they can be downloaded via a main portal instead. It’s easier than ever to find/share new content.

The bottom line is that Trials Evolution is an improvement in every sense of the word, and it is one of the best sequels I have ever played. Fans of the original absolutely must play this, and anyone interested in racing, platforming and/or physics puzzlers should give this a shot. Don’t let the dirtbikes and godawful rap metal music throw you off — this is a very well-made game that is more than worth its $15 price tag.

9/10

 
 
For those curious about just how awesome the user community is for Trials Evolution, check out this amazing fanmade track with a kickass music theme: